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Traffickers may pay some NGOs, Catania prosecutor

Justice minister calls for proof to be presented

27 April, 18:50

    Migranti subsahariani appena soccorsi nel Mediterraneo Migranti subsahariani appena soccorsi nel Mediterraneo

    PALERMO - Catania prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro said Thursday on state broadcaster RaiTre that ''in my opinion, some NGOs could be financed by traffickers and I know of contact (between them). This trafficking is currently bringing in as much money as the drug trade''. He was speaking on the issue of an inquiry opened recently by his office. ''Perhaps it could be even more disturbing,'' he added, positing that some NGOs might ''have different ends, such as destabilizing the Italian economy in order to benefit from it''.

    Justice Minister Andrea Orlando said that he hoped ''that the Catania prosecutor's office will speak through the investigation and documents, since I think that this is the best way. If the prosecutor general has proof of this, we will make an assessment.'' ''In general,'' he added, speaking to Repubblica TV, ''it is not fair to reconstruct the history of NGOs as a story of collusion with traffickers. This is a lie.''ù

    ''We are waiting for the results of this investigation,'' Deputy Foreign Minister Mario Giro said. ''Everything is being built up around the words of the Frontex director (Fabrice Leggeri, Ed.), who in my opinion must cover the fact that their ships have moved north of Malta and, obviously, those of the NGOs remain where they were. This is clearly an annoyance in a particularly delicate period, such as the European elections one with elections in important countries.''

    In speaking at the Senate Defense Committee, the Frontex director said recently that it was a ''paradox'' that NGOs carry out so many rescues at sea, ''about a third'', ''when there have never been so many public ships deployed in the sea between the EU and Italy''. He added that, on the basis of migrant statements, ''in some cases the traffickers give telephones to the migrants with the numbers of NGOs'', but did not specify which. Giro was questioned on Thursday at the Fiumicino airport, where he welcomed 68 Syrian refugees that came through 'humanitarian corridors'.

    Giro said that he did not think that coordination between NGOs and traffickers induces migrants to try the crossing.

    He added that ''intervention to keep people in Africa must be done first, before Libya. And this is exactly what the government is doing with the countries of West Africa.''

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